Cambridge University Library

Readers' Newsletter No. 14


Visit of the President of the People's Republic of China

Charles Aylmer shows President Jiang a Chinese oracle bone while Vice-Premier Qian Qichen looks on.

Jiang Zemin, President of the People's Republic of China, visited the Library on 22 October, on the last day of his four-day state visit to the United Kingdom, the first ever by a Chinese head of state. He was accompanied by a government delegation of over a hundred including the Vice-Premier, Qian Qichen, and the Foreign Minister, Tang Jiaxuan. The President was received at the entrance to the Aoi Pavilion by the Lord Lieutenant for Cambridgeshire, the Mayor of Cambridge, the Vice-Chancellor and the Librarian. After signing the Library's visitors' book. President Jiang was shown a display of selected items from the Library's holdings by Charles Aylmer, the head of the Chinese section. The items on display were mostly Chinese, but included some Western items such as manuscripts of Newton and Darwin. Memorabilia of the late Dr Joseph Needham were also on view, and the visit concluded with the presentation to the President of a set of the 19 volumes of Needham's Science and civilisation in China.

New electronic services

The Library has recently subscribed to Journal Citation Reports (JCR). JCR is a valuable tool in evaluating the impact of journals within a given speciality in either the sciences or social sciences as journals are ranked based on citation patterns of published papers in the previous year. This information through JCR Web at is now available at your desk-top.

The Library has also recently established site-wide access to a major electronic reference work for the biological sciences. The Embryonic Encyclopedia of Life Sciences (ELS) provides access to articles to be published in the projected 20 print volume Macmillan Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. The print and electronic Encyclopedia is expected to be complete in 2001. Core subjects covered by ELS include biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, molecular biology, physiology, evolution, plant science and structural biology. ELS can be consulted within the Cam domain without a password at

Online access has been acquired to two much requested reference titles, The Grove Dictionary of Art ( and The New Grove Dictionary of Opera ( The former contains 45,000 articles on every aspect of the visual arts - painting, sculpture, graphic arts, architecture, decorative arts and photography - from prehistory to the present day. Making full use of the possibilities of online publishing, it includes links to the online images of the Bridgeman Art Library and to further external images on the Web maintained by galleries and museums. The New Grove Dictionary of Opera online includes over 11,000 articles and covers all aspects of opera, from composers, librettists and social history to singers, conductors and directors, to cities, opera houses, costumes, choreography and set design. Both continuously update the printed versions by adding entries for new movements in art and music and revise existing entries in the light of recent scholarship. Access is available from workstations within the University without a password.

With the acquisition of the Research Libraries Group's Archival Resources database researchers have access to high-level information for nearly half a million collections of manuscripts and archives in repositories around the world. It provides centralised access for searching and retrieval of archival collection guides (finding aids) that reveal where a collection came from, how it is organised, and what it contains. It is particularly strong at present on the collections of US university and research libraries but is expanding rapidly to encompass archives elsewhere, notably in the UK and Australia. Access is available without a password via a link from the list of databases on the Library's web pages at:

For further details of these and other electronic information services contact or consult

The Royal Society of Literature Archive

The archive of the Royal Society of Literature has been purchased by the Library, with the aid of generous grants from the Friends of the National Libraries, the Museums and Galleries Commission/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, and the Friends of Cambridge University Library.

Since its foundation in 1820, the Royal Society of Literature has been a leading institution in British literary and intellectual life. It has declared its aim as being `to sustain all that is best, whether traditional or experimental, in English letters, and to encourage a catholic appreciation of literature'. The archive consists of the non-current papers of the Society, ranging from the 1820s to the 1990s. It includes registers, subscription lists, account books and related administrative documents; manuscripts of papers delivered to the Society; and a very large accumulation of correspondence.

The archive has a dual claim to attention. Firstly, it is a full and vivid record of the activity and administration of an important British institution. Although not complete, especially in its coverage of the nineteenth century, the archive reflects in its form as well as its contents the structure and activity of the Society. Secondly, it is an invaluable source of biographical and intellectual information on a large number of authors. The Fellows of the Society have included a large proportion of the most eminent English writers of the last 175 years. The archive's hitherto `private' status has meant that its research value has remained largely unrealised, but this will change quickly once it is made available to scholars in the University Library.

In the Society's early years, the term `literature' was broadly interpreted. As a result, the nineteenth-century portion of the archive is rich in material of antiquarian, historical, philosophical and philological interest: the papers read before the society, and surviving in the archive, include Joseph Bonomi on obelisks, James Orchard Halliwell [-Phillips] on Euclid, and Sir William Ousely on ancient Arabian calligraphy. In the twentieth century this inclusive tradition has persisted in the admission to Fellowship of such authors as the historian Dame Veronica Wedgwood, the scientist Marie Stopes, and the philosopher Bertrand Russell: all are represented by documents in the Society's files.

The correspondence in the archive includes letters from Southey, Crabbe and Felicia Hemans in the earliest years of the Society, through Hardy, Yeats and Sassoon in the first half of this century, to Golding, Larkin and Hughes in recent decades. The Society's council and committee members, who are particularly prominent in the archive, have included many notable literary authors, including Walter de la Mare, from whom there are more than three hundred letters, as well as public figures such as R.A. Butler.

The University Library has for many years been strengthening its manuscript collections relating to English literature of the late nineteenth and early/mid twentieth centuries. The Royal Society of Literature archive fits logically into this established collecting policy, while at the same time significantly enhancing the Library's coverage of this important scholarly area.

For further information contact Kathleen Cann in the Manuscripts Department (telephone (3)33142, email

The new Deputy Librarian

Anne Murray

Roy Welbourn retired at Christmas and is succeeded as one of the two Deputy Librarians by Anne Murray, who starts on 1 February.

After graduating in history from Trinity College Dublin, Anne began her career in special libraries, working at FÁS, the Training and Employment Authority, in Dublin, and then in the London city office of Coopers and Lybrand, specialising in business information.

Her career in academic librarianship began in 1992 when she joined the staff at Dublin City University (DCU) as Acquisitions and Serials Librarian. She subsequently moved to the post of Sub-Librarian (Planning), where her responsibilities included coordinating quality service initiatives within the Library and the detailed planning of the new Library and Information Resource Centre. Anne led the DCU Library quality project which resulted in the Library being awarded the Q-Mark by Excellence Ireland. DCU is the first Library in Ireland to achieve this award for service excellence. During this time Anne also completed an MA in Communication and Cultural Studies at DCU.

More recently, Anne has worked as Sub-Librarian (Collection Management) at Trinity College Dublin (TCD). At TCD her responsibilities have included taking forward a new information strategy, based upon greater use of electronic resources, and implementing a wide range of changes in current staff structures and work practices in the context of merged operations in the new library building, which is scheduled to open in 2001.

Speaking of her new post, Anne says that she looks forward to the opportunity to help foster an environment in which the knowledge, skills and expertise of the University Library staff will provide enhanced support for developments in the University as a whole.

The Buxton Papers

The ancestral hall of the Buxton family, Channons Hall, near Tibenham in Norfolk. (Reproduced from a painting ca. 1720.)

Work has recently been completed on a three-year project, supported by the HEFCE non-formula funding of research collections in the humanities, to catalogue the Buxton Papers, the archive of a Norfolk gentry family, containing nearly 12,000 discrete items ranging from about 1160 to 1926. The collection was presented to the University Library in 1901 by Maud Buxton, last heir of this family, further deposits following between 1908 and 1926 and in 1966. The family almost certainly derives its name from Buxton in Norfolk, but is first recorded in 1464 as a resident at Tibenham. Through Robert Buxton (c. 1533-1607), solicitor and surveyor in the service of the Duke of Norfolk and of his son, the Earl of Arundel, the family rose to some prominence in the county. In about 1560 they acquired Channons Hall near Tibenham and, at the turn to the next century, the lands of Rushford College, founded in 1342 by Edmund Gonville for a community of secular priests. Here the Buxtons built a new house (Shadwell House) in the 1720s, which was twice enlarged and converted into something of a neo-Gothic monstrosity during the nineteenth century.

The cataloguing project has made accessible a wealth of fascinating documents, relevant to a wide range of research topics. The principal interest of the collection lies in the light it sheds, across more than seven centuries, on local East Anglian society and on the interaction of the county of Norfolk with national affairs. Some 600 medieval charters and deeds, many of them relating to the foundation and early history of Rushford College, are complemented by numerous abstracts of title compiled during the sixteenth century, the result of an often tortuous effort to assert right of title. There are remarkably complete runs of court rolls and court books between 1327 and 1692 for the manors in Bunwell, Carleton Rode and Tibenham. These, together with a vast range of other manorial and estate papers from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries, form an invaluable source of information for local and social historians, as well as for the history of land ownership and estate management in Norfolk. Most generations of the Buxtons have left account books of personal and domestic expenses, journals of travels in England or on the continent, notebooks containing recipes for medicinal, veterinary or horticultural treatments and other personal papers which, like many of the over 3,000 letters, afford intriguing glimpses into the private lives of their writers, their lifestyles, concerns and expectations. The Buxtons' involvement in the political, administrative, legal and military affairs of their county is witnessed by numerous documents, relating to the office of High Sheriff, the collection of ship money, tax assessments for the raising of arms and troops, musters for the Navy or the Norfolk Militia, prison accounts, initiatives against poaching, and election campaigns. There also remain interesting collections of papers dealing with criminal cases (magistrates' business) from times when Buxtons acted as Justices of the Peace (mainly during the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries).

For more information on the Buxtons and their archive see

Keeping time: a celebration of the year 2000

John Harrison: Marine chronometer No.3 from drawings made by instruction of the Astronomer Royal, G.B. Airey, 1840
(David Calvert/Royal Greenwich Observatory Archive)

In commemoration of the calendar's turn to the year 2000 an exhibition Keeping Time, on display from March until September, will draw on the enormous wealth of material in the University Library's collections to reflect many aspects of the human appreciation of time and its passage.

One large collection of manuscripts in the Library is the Royal Greenwich Observatory Archives. To the westerner, the words Greenwich and time are closely linked. In the seventeenth century, following the observation of the regularity of the pendulum, European mechanical clocks reached new levels of accuracy. The accurate measure of time led directly to accurate astronomical observations, and the modern science of astrometry, the exact measurement of the positions of stars and celestial bodies in the sky, was born. From seventeenth century astronomy sprang the enormous development of the physical sciences progressing since then.

But the precise regularity of the atomic clocks giving us our time today is not the only manner in which we can perceive time. In the middle ages the daylight was sometimes merely divided into twelve equal parts, parts which varied in length of time throughout the year. The solar year is central to life on Earth, but calendars in different cultures vary. It is the lunar cycle which gives us the very word `month' and the calendar in, for instance, Islam is a lunar calendar.

In literature, Donne and Shakespeare lament the passing of the years while the idea of moving through time has stimulated authors who have created works with little or no relation to scientific ideas of time and time-keeping. Time travel has been a device used in children's fiction, romance and historical novels. The aim of the exhibition Keeping Time is to explore some of the many ways in which humankind has sought to grasp and use the idea of time and our place in time.

Exhibitions at the University Library

Exhibition Centre

Divided and reunited: the making of modern Germany

Until 26 February

Keeping time: a celebration of the year 2000

18 March - 15 September (closed 21-24 April; 28 August)

Opening times:

Monday - Friday0900 - 18.00
Saturday0900 - 12.30

The Exhibition Centre is open to the public and admission is free.

The Friends of Cambridge University Library

Forthcoming meetings

Wednesday 9 February 17.00

(Tea will be served from 16.30)

The Geoff Hales Travelling Theatre
A Victorian evening: gems of nineteenth-century literature

The Travelling Theatre presents literary readings in the tradition of Charles Dickens.

Wednesday 29 March 17.15

(Tea will be served from 16.45)

Professor Eddie Dawes
The Magic of Books

Eddie Dawes was Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Hull and is President of the Magic Circle.

The talks will take place in the Library's Morison Room. £2.50 for Friends: £3.50 others.

Editor: Ray Scrivens ISSN:1360-9033

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